CE.20.007 – Closing the Loops: Circular Plastics

Route: Circular economy

Cluster question: 052 How can we create a truly circular economy so that industrial goods manufacturing depends less on primary raw materials?

In the past fifty years, the use of plastics has grown exponentially. Due to their versatile properties, the worldwide application has been increased twentyfold. Plastics contribute to comfort, safety, durability, hygiene and energy efficiency. Apart from a large number of advantages, the large-scale use of plastics also entails disadvantages, such as the spread of plastic litter and microplastics on land and at sea results in a growing pollution of ecosystems. Hence, despite all the benefits, we face a number of important challenges.
In spite of plastics theoretically high recyclability, post-consumer plastic packaging recycling rates remain low and this is mainly associated with quality aspects. But how does the post-consumer plastic packaging quality degrade? As quality depends on the properties of the material, its designed characteristics, and the changes thereof during their use, handling, and reprocessing, it is crucial to investigate at how each of these steps affects plastic packaging recycling.
Our proposed interdisciplinary project Closing the Loops: Circular Plastics will answer critical questions that still prevent closing the materials loop for plastic recycling. This project will allow more plastics from household waste to be recycled gaining competence over virgin materials, safeguarding consistent supply and reducing risks associated with resource demand and price volatility.
Remaining functionality of the recycled plastics is the foremost critical factor – they must comply with various aspects such as material properties, available volumes and the safety of the materials. Material properties comprise durability, temperature resistance, purity, shock resistance, color freedom and ‘food contact approvals’. Essential knowledge is also lacking on how to introduce improvement steps to achieve high-quality reuses.
In the multidisciplinary consortium of Closing the Loops: Circular Plastics consisting of parties from the full production chain, supplemented by knowledge institutions, synergistic relationships between waste management, recyclers and (re)manufacturing industries will be established, that develop knowledge on how to reuse plastic waste at a high level and will promote sustainable resource management.

Keywords

circular plastics, high-quality recyclate, recycling, sustainability, waste-free economy

Other organisations

Cumapol, Dufor, Hogeschool NHL Stenden, Lankhorst, Morssinkhof, Omrin

Submitter

Organisation University of Groningen (RUG)
Name Prof. dr. K.U. (Katja) Loos
E-mail k.u.loos@rug.nl
Website www.rug.nl/research/polymer-chemistry